Prosecutor: Texas jail death autopsy revealed no evidence of homicide
No defensive injuries on her hands that would typically indicate a struggle
By David Warren
DALLAS — The autopsy of a woman who was found dead in a Texas jail revealed no injuries that would suggest she died in a violent homicide, authorities said Thursday.
Waller County prosecutor Warren Diepraam discussed details of the autopsy of 28-year-old Sandra Bland, who authorities say was found hanging in her jail cell on July 13.
The autopsy showed that Bland had no defensive injuries on her hands that would typically indicate a struggle, the prosecutor said. Some lacerations or abrasions were found on her wrists. Those injuries were consistent with a struggle while being handcuffed.
The marks around Bland's neck were consistent with a suicide, he said.
Bland was arrested three days before she was found dead. Her family and friends dispute the official finding. Texas Rangers and the FBI are investigating.
Bland's death comes after nearly a year of heightened national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially those who have been killed by officers or die in police custody. It has resonated on social media, with posts questioning the official account and featuring the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland.
The sheriff said Wednesday that no one gained access to the cell and contributed to Bland's death.
Bland's family has said she was not despondent and was looking forward to starting a new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.
However, Bland posted a video to her Facebook page in March, saying she was suffering from "a little bit of depression as well as PTSD," or post-traumatic stress disorder. At least one friend has said she was just venting after a bad day.
A video of her arrest taken from the officer's dashcam shows state trooper Brian Encinia drawing a stun gun and threatening Bland when she refuses to follow his orders.
The roadside encounter swiftly escalated into a shouting confrontation, with the officer holding the weapon and warning Bland, "I will light you up," for not getting out of her vehicle.
The video shows the trooper stopping Bland for failing to signal a lane change. The conversation turns hostile when the officer asks Bland to put out her cigarette and she asks why she can't smoke in her own car. The trooper then orders Bland to get out of the vehicle. She refuses, and he tells her she is under arrest.
Further refusals to get out led the trooper to threaten to drag her out. He then pulls out a stun gun and makes the threat about lighting Bland up.
When she finally steps out of the vehicle, the trooper orders her to the side of the road. There, the confrontation continues off-camera, but it is still audible.
Bland can be heard protesting her arrest, repeatedly using expletives and insulting the officer. She screams that he's about to break her wrists and complains that he knocked her head into the ground.
Houston television station KTRK-TV released a voicemail that Bland left a friend, LaVaughn Mosley, while in jail in which she expressed disbelief at her circumstances.
In the message, Bland calmly said she's "still just at a loss for words honestly at this whole process." She wondered, "How did switching lanes with no signal turn into all of this?"
The Department of Public Safety trooper, who has been on the force for just over a year, has been placed on administrative leave for violating unspecified police procedures and the department's courtesy policy.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press